South Island Explorer
13 day South Island Self Drive, from Christchurch to Christchurch
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New Zealand tour itinerary name and information

South Island Explorer

Starting and finishing in Christchurch this tour visits Mt. Cook National Park, travels through the Southern Lakes region and into the deep south. Time to explore Dunedin and wildlife of the Otago Peninsular before crossing the rich farmland of Southland toward Te Anau and Fiordland National Park. There is a full day to explore Milford Sound including a Real Journeys Nature Cruise. Then to Queenstown for two nights with time to relax or enjoy the countless activities here. The West Coast Glaciers are next and two nights allow time to enjoy one of the many guided walk options or scenic flights. Return to Christchurch aboard the world famous TranzAlpine Scenic Train. Along the way you will stay at magnificent luxury retreats set in breath-taking locations.

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South Island Self Drive

This suggested tour costs from NZD$8,432 per person (twin share, low season)

Starts in Christchurch, finishes in Christchurch

13 days/12 nights

Luxury Lodges & Hotels

 Rental car included

 Viewed 10 times in the last 7 days

This South Island Self Drive tour idea includes:

- Private transfer Christchurch International Airport to your accommodation
- Private Transfer Christchurch Train Station to your accommodation
- Private transfer accommodation to Christchurch Airport
12 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 4 dinners, 2 special dinners
Tour at a glance

Day 1: Arrive into Christchurch City
Accommodation: Hotel Montreal

Day 2: Explore the evolving city of Christchurch or take a day trip to Akaroa
Accommodation: Hotel Montreal

Day 3: Today you'll enjoy a scenic drive through Canterbury and the MacKenzie Country
Accommodation: Hermitage Hotel, Aoraki Wing Premium Plus
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 350 kms / 217 miles : 4.1 hours

Day 4: Leaving the MacKenzie Country you'll follow the Waitaki River to the coast, where you'll turn south for Dunedin
Accommodation: Camp Estate at Larnach Castle
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 318 kms / 197 miles : 3.7 hours

Day 5: Enjoy a day exploring Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula
Accommodation: Camp Estate at Larnach Castle

Day 6: Travel through the rich farmland of South Otago and Southland to reach Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland
Accommodation: Fiordland Lodge
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 396 kms / 246 miles : 5.0 hours

Day 7: Take the remarkable Milford Road to Milford Sound for your cruise in the fiord
Accommodation: Fiordland Lodge
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 233 kms / 145 miles : 3.6 hours

Day 8: Travel through rolling Southland countryside then follow Lake Wakatipu to Queenstown
Accommodation: Azur Lodge
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 164 kms / 102 miles : 1.9 hours

Day 9: Today is free to either relax or try one of the thrilling activities that Queenstown is famous for
Accommodation: Azur Lodge

Day 10: Take the Crown Range Road to Wanaka before travelling the spectacular Haast Pass to the West Coast
Accommodation: Te Waonui Forest Retreat
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 350 kms / 217 miles : 4.6 hours

Day 11: Take the day to explore Westland National Park and the amazing glaciers
Accommodation: Te Waonui Forest Retreat

Day 12: Drive north along the stunning West Coast Road and take the TranzAlpine train to Christchurch
Accommodation: Hotel Montreal
Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 170 kms / 106 miles : 2.1 hours

Day 13: Depart Christchurch today

Detailed itinerary - day by day
Tour full itinerary
South Island Explorer - Day 1
Private transfer Christchurch International Airport to your accommodation

On arrival, you will be met by a private driver and transferred to your Christchurch accommodation.

Welcome to Christchurch City

Known as New Zealand's garden city, Christchurch is a vibrant metro area. Encompassing a large green belt, it is known for its wide tree lined avenues and lush gardens. Take the double decker hop on/hop off bus for an easy way to see the sights, or ride a historic tram across town to the renowned botanic gardens and the cardboard Transitional Cathedral.

Your accommodation: Hotel Montreal

A true original, Hotel Montreal is a unique, luxury escape in the heart of Christchurch city. Hotel Montreal is often recognised for the five-star comfort and convenience it affords those passing through the Garden City.

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South Island Explorer - Day 2
Explore Christchurch City

Following the 2011 earthquake that razed its centre and much of the outlying suburbs, Christchurch is well into a billion-dollar makeover. In the middle of the Canterbury Plains, bordering the pacific ocean, New Zealand’s newest city is an ideal gateway to exploring the middle of the South.
Go punting on the Avon River, take a historic tram ride, catch the gondola to the rim of an extinct volcano or do all three! See the world's only Cardboard Cathedral and for nature enthusiasts - wander the renowned Christchurch Botanic Gardens, or head to Oxford Terrace in the city to find a great spot to eat or drink.
Drive an hour in any direction to ski, mountain bike, wine taste, whale-watch, bungy jump or play golf. Take the winding Port Hills road to the French settlement of Akaroa and tour the vines in Waipara for an authentic New Zealand wine-tasting experience.  

Choose from our great range of late model rental cars for your driving holiday

Today you’ll take to the road for your New Zealand Self Drive holiday, so take a look through the great selection of late model vehicles available and take your pick.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Hot Air Balloon Ride

Escape to a world of peace and tranquillity. Hot Air Ballooning is a magical experience and a flight with Ballooning Canterbury offers panoramic views across the fertile Canterbury Plains to the Southern Alps. There is nothing quite so romantic and exciting as floating effortlessly over an ever changing landscape.
Before leaving the ground, the pilot will give you a briefing. During your flight you will experience spectacular views and have fantastic photo opportunities. Chilled champagne, orange juice and a light snack then be served. Hot air ballooning is a hands-on experience and you will be encouraged to assist with the setup and pack away of the balloon itself.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Christchurch Gondola

In the Heathcote Valley, just fifteen minutes from the heart of Christchurch City, ride the Christchurch Gondola for nearly a kilometer to the collapsed rim of an extinct volcano, which exploded six million years ago. Take in the spectacular panoramic views of the central city, Lyttelton Harbour, Banks Peninsula, Canterbury Plains, and the distant peaks of the Southern Alps. Wander the summit complex, enjoy a coffee or lunch in the cafe, and choose one of many nature walks to explore or visit the Christchurch Discovery Rice, a dramatic reconstruction of the history of the Port Hills and Christchurch. 

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Discover Christchurch Afternoon Tour

A half day sightseeing tour of Christchurch highlighting both the damage to the city inflicted by several large earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 and the rebuild which is currently in progress, together with the surviving beauty of the city and the historical landmarks. Experience the grand architecture, beautiful gardens and scenic viewpoints on a half-day city tour of Christchurch.
The tour commences in the central city of Christchurch and covers the area which was completely devastated by the Christchurch earthquakes in February 2011. The guide will explain both the history of the city and the effects of the earthquake. On leaving the inner city, the tour travels to Mona Vale a historic homestead and gardens. Then you will travel to the Sign of the Takahe, a historic building with a lookout providing spectacular views over the city, Canterbury Plains and to the Southern Alps. The tour then travels via the Port Hills and Lyttleton Harbour by way of the Sign of the Kiwi and Governors Bay to the Port of Lyttleton. The tour proceeds through the Lyttleton harbour tunnel to the seaside suburb of Sumner and cave rock before returning to the central city where the tour will conclude.

Your accommodation: Hotel Montreal

A true original, Hotel Montreal is a unique, luxury escape in the heart of Christchurch city. Hotel Montreal is often recognised for the five-star comfort and convenience it affords those passing through the Garden City.
Meals included: Breakfast

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South Island Explorer - Day 3
Christchurch to Aoraki Mt Cook National Park

Today you'll drive through the heart of the South Island, crossing the vast Canterbury plains. Catch your breath in Geraldine before continuing through Fairlie. Ascending Burkes pass you'll come to the picturesque lakeside town of Tekapo.
Follow the road and take in the view of Aoraki Mt Cook (New Zealand's tallest mountain) from the shores of Lake Pukaki, known for its glacier fed turquoise blue colour. Continue along the lake to your final destination Mt Cook Village.
Please note: There are no food shops at Mt Cook, and dinner options are limited to one restaurant. If you wish to self-cater, you must stock up before arriving in Mt Cook, or make dinner reservations in advance.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Glacier Explorers Mt. Cook

Experience 500 year old icebergs up-close on the Mt Cook terminal lake. The Glacier Explorers tour is the only one of its kind in New Zealand and one of only three in the world! Very few glaciers terminate into lakes and even fewer of them are accessible. See towering ice cliffs and floating icebergs from the safety of a specially designed boat. These boats provide a safe way to view unseen and inaccessible areas of New Zealand's largest glacier The Tasman.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Big Sky Stargazing

Mt Cook is far from the city lights and therefore has some of the darkest skies in New Zealand, perfect for viewing the night sky! Their fully trained guides are delighted to show you the beautiful southern night sky using the naked eye, state of the art astronomy telescopes and binoculars at the outdoor viewing platform. If the weather is not favourable then there will be an indoor alternative featuring New Zealand’s first full dome digital Planetarium, a high-definition video images on a suspended 9m wide x 4.5m high full dome. Unleash your imagination as you discover the night sky including the Southern Cross, seasonal ecliptic objects, planets, star clusters, moons, distant galaxies and even our very own galaxy, the spectacular Milky Way!

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Alpine Explorer Heli Flight and Snow Landing with The Helicopter Line

Experience this magnificent alpine environment with a 35 minute flight over the Ben Ohau Mountains. Fly close to the steep ridges and rise over a mountain pass which reveals superb views out to Aoraki/Mount Cook and its surrounding peaks. Prepare yourself for an amazing alpine landing where you will be able to step out of the helicopter and play in the snow. Should weather not be suitable to take this flight you are able to transfer your booking onto a similar tour on any of the Helicopter Line's operations in Queenstown or Mt Cook.

Your accommodation: Hermitage Hotel, Aoraki Wing Premium Plus

Experience the best views in the park from the spacious top floor rooms of the magnificent Hermitage Hotel.
Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 350 kms / 217 miles : 4.1 hours

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South Island Explorer - Day 4
Aoraki Mt Cook National Park to Dunedin

Today you'll leave Aoraki Mt Cook National Park and travel past Twizel, one of the locations for the Lord of the Rings films. Go through Omarama, the gliding capital of New Zealand, be sure to stop at The Wrinkly Ram, a quirky local cafe and souvenir store. Driving through the Waitaki Valley follow the hydro power generating system towards the east coast. Stretch your legs in Oamaru, known for its white stone buildings constructed with the local Oamaru Stone. If you were a little late off the mark this morning you may get the chance to see the blue penguins come ashore at dusk.
Continue south down the coast to Moeraki, and take a detour towards the beach to see the Moeraki Boulders, a unique geological feature well worth a look. As you arrive in Dunedin, take in the city’s Edwardian and Scottish heritage reflected in the buildings around the city centre The Octagon.

Dinner at Camp Estate, Larnach Castle

Keeping with the historical setting of Larnach Castle, a four-course dinner is offered in a grand Castle Dining Room. This is a trust-the-chef experience where you may indulge in incredible meals and meet other guests. The menu reflects local meats and vegetables, served in a traditional New Zealand-style cuisine with the opportunity to pair with regional wines.

Your accommodation: Camp Estate at Larnach Castle

A luxurious country house built from blue stone and features a spectacular marble staircase. The modern rooms are all double glazed and the reception rooms are all heated by open fires and underfloor heating. Staying at Camp Estate includes entry to Larnach Castle and the grounds.
Meals included: Breakfast, Speciality Dinner

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 318 kms / 197 miles : 3.7 hours

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South Island Explorer - Day 5
Explore Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula

Known as the Edinburgh of the South, Dunedin City has a heavy Scottish influence. Surrounded by rugged coastal plains and windswept beaches it’s home to an eclectic mix of historical and modern architecture as well as industrial technology. Renowned for its Flemish Baroque-inspired ‘gingerbread house’ Railway Station, this university town is bustling with life. Head to the Saturday farmers market held in the aforementioned railway grounds for a taste of organic produce, handmade crepes and local honey. Explore the many cafes and wine bars in The Octagon, then continue on a self-guided walking tour of the internationally acclaimed Street Art dotted around the city. Drive to the coast and watch the freighters passing in the distance while you sunbathe, or hire a mountain bike and test your legs on one of the many trails available in the area. For a more immersive historical experience, follow the coast to New Zealand's only castle, Larnach Castle. On your way back be sure to head to the Otago Peninsula to see the largest mainland Albatross colony in the world.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Wildlife Cruise with Monarch

Travel along the wonderful Otago Peninsula roads with local guide and enjoy an interactive commentary as you go. Hear stories of sea creatures and early settlers as you pass quaint little townships and rolling farmland. The boat will cruise out of the Otago Harbour, to Taiaroa Head. Enjoy uninterrupted views of the world’s only mainland nesting place of royal albatross. Watch as these huge birds glide in from the ocean and soar high above their hillside nest sites. Continuing back down the Otago Harbour, you’ll go past Careys Bay, a historic fishing village and then see the busy wharves of Port Chalmers. The boat will cruise through the Quarantine Islands and past the stunning bays, hills, farmland and forests that surround the harbour. 

Dinner at Camp Estate, Larnach Castle

Keeping with the historical setting of Larnach Castle, a four-course dinner is offered in a grand Castle Dining Room. This is a trust-the-chef experience where you may indulge in incredible meals and meet other guests. The menu reflects local meats and vegetables, served in a traditional New Zealand-style cuisine with the opportunity to pair with regional wines.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Otago Peninsula In-Depth Tour and Blue Penguins Pukekura Experience with Blue Penguins Pukekura

During this tour, you will see and understand the unique ecosystems, wildlife, culture, geology, and botany of the Otago Peninsula. Excellent tour for nature enthusiasts, and for those who want to see and learn as much as possible about the environment, the animals, and the visited places. The tour includes viewing a range of local wildlife, such as penguins, seals, and albatrosses. It is guided by local experts.

Your accommodation: Camp Estate at Larnach Castle

A luxurious country house built from blue stone and features a spectacular marble staircase. The modern rooms are all double glazed and the reception rooms are all heated by open fires and underfloor heating. Staying at Camp Estate includes entry to Larnach Castle and the grounds.
Meals included: Breakfast, Speciality Dinner

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South Island Explorer - Day 6
Dunedin to Te Anau

The drive to Te Anau takes you through classic Southland farming scenery. Head off-the-beaten-track today and follow the coastline instead of the inland route. Go through The Catlins area and be sure to take a detour to Kaka Point to view its majestic cliffs and pounding surf. Continue through Invercargill to Riverton and Colac Bay, and then head north to Manapouri. From here you can embark on a day or overnight cruise to the remote Doubtful Sound, renowned for its natural beauty. Just a short way further will bring you to your lakeside destination of Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound.

Fiordland Lodge

Set on a superb site with commanding views out across Lake Te Anau this is a rural setting with rolling grass lands surrounding the Lodge, Lake Te Anau being a mere ten-minute walk away. Across the lake to the west lie the mountains of Fiordland National Park, an area of over three million acres of untouched wilderness and part of the much larger South West New Zealand World Heritage Area. The enjoyment of food and wine is integral to the experience on offer at Fiordland Lodge and the use of quality ingredients being seasonal and regional and largely organic are fundamental to their cuisine philosophy. Food is a focal point and you'll be hard pressed to find something on the menu that isn't homemade or locally grown. Fresh organic vegetables, greens, herbs and eggs are harvested daily from the huge onsite vegetable garden, so each season nature offers a new palette for the kitchen team to create dishes. A changing evening menu also means that you get to experience as much of New Zealand’s wonderful food as possible. There are numerous activities available from Fiordland Lodge such as guided fly fishing and nature walks also the conservation gold sponsor experience where you will join a local volunteer to work on a conservation project for the day.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Te Anau Glowworm Caves with RealNZ

Begin your Te Anau Glowworm experience with a scenic cruise across Lake Te Anau on board the luxury catamaran, Luminosa, to the western side of the lake. On arrival, you'll enter the caves through Cavern House, where informative displays detail the history of this 12,000 year old underground network.
You'll then explore by limestone pathway while your guide points out hidden whirlpools, sculpted rock formations and a rushing underground waterfall. See a magical display of thousands of glowworms as you glide through the darkness in a small boat.

The Lost Gypsy Gallery - suggested activity

The Lost Gypsy Gallery is a fantastical museum of automata art by Blair Somerville and should not be missed by anyone traveling through Catlins on the Southern Scenic Route. Walk through the gate, wander up the path, and find a folly of fettling ready to be fiddled with. Wind handles, push buttons, and your curiosity will be rewarded. This temple of tinkering houses Blair's creations, together with automata art from around the globe. Grab a coffee, take a bite from homemade bakeries, and spill your eyes with Lost Gypsy treasures. 

Your accommodation: Fiordland Lodge

Set in a World Heritage area Fiordland Lodge offers the discerning traveller comfort and privacy. The elegance and splendour of the Lodge is mirrored in the breathtaking views of Lake Te Anau and Fiordland. Private and serene, the Lodge is perfect for relaxation, or as a base for your Fiordland experience.
Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 396 kms / 246 miles : 5.0 hours

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South Island Explorer - Day 7
Te Anau to Milford Sound and return to Te Anau

The road to Milford Sound offers some of the most beautiful and iconic scenery in the country. From crystal clear lakes and towering mountains to lush glacier formed meadows, this area is dramatic and unyielding. Stretch your legs on the Chasm Walk, a short stroll through native beech forest to see several powerful waterfalls. Continue on through the Homer Tunnel, an engineering marvel at 1219 metres long. Arriving into the village of Milford,you will be greeted with an amazing view of Mitre Peak. A day cruise into the heart of the sound is not to be missed. You’ll learn about how this magnificent area was formed and experience the wonder of the falls that line the Fiord before back-tracking the way you came.
Please note: Make sure to allow 2.5hrs to Milford Sound, this takes into account the current road works on the Milford Road.

Milford Sound Cruise with RealNZ

Get up close and personal with Milford Sound on a leisurely cruise of this spectacular fiord. From thundering waterfalls to sky-high mountains to lush rainforests, Milford has it all. Experience the spray of a waterfall as you cruise close to sheer rock faces. Informative, participative and relaxed, this is the perfect way to experience Milford Sound to the fullest.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Milford Premium Cruise with RealNZ

Get up close and personal with Milford Sound on a leisurely cruise of this spectacular fiord abroad the M.V Sinbad, an exclusive vessel for a premium experience. From thundering waterfalls to sky-high mountains to lush rainforests, Milford has it all. Experience the spray of a waterfall as you cruise close to sheer rock faces. With a glass of bubbles on arrival and canapes provided throughout the journey, this is the perfect way to explore Milford Sound. At a capped capacity of 40 people and a roaming nature guide providing informative commentary throughout the extended cruise, this experience allows guests to enjoy the Fiord at a relaxing pace.

Your accommodation: Fiordland Lodge

Set in a World Heritage area Fiordland Lodge offers the discerning traveller comfort and privacy. The elegance and splendour of the Lodge is mirrored in the breathtaking views of Lake Te Anau and Fiordland. Private and serene, the Lodge is perfect for relaxation, or as a base for your Fiordland experience.
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 233 kms / 145 miles : 3.6 hours

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South Island Explorer - Day 8
Te Anau to Queenstown

Today make your way to Queenstown across vast tussocklands. Head through Mossburn, the deer capital of the nation then continue on through rolling southland countryside. Soon the road skirts the lake edge and the Remarkables mountain range makes for an impressive welcome to Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Gondola and Buffet Dinner with Skyline Queenstown

With breathtaking views across Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu, the Skyline Complex is a must-do. Catch the fully enclosed gondola to the summit for a remarkable panorama of the city surrounds. Wander the outdoor viewing decks then enjoy a gourmet buffet meal in the Stratosphere Restaurant.

Your accommodation: Azur Lodge

It's hard to imagine a more perfect view than the one from Azur Lodge, this luxury accommodation offers amazing vistas of Lake Wakatipu & the surrounding mountains. As well as the luxury guest villas, there is a main lodge for guest use, breakfast dining room & stunning guest lounge.
Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 164 kms / 102 miles : 1.9 hours

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South Island Explorer - Day 9
Explore Queenstown

Although celebrated as New Zealand's ‘adventure capital’ Queenstown offers far more than a fast-paced action-packed holiday. Settled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu beneath a soaring panorama of the Remarkables Mountain Range, this alpine town is surrounded by a plethora of historic, gastronomic and scenic wonders.
Head down the Gibbston Valley wine trail to sample some of the region’s best Pinot or catch a ride on the 100 year old Steamship the TSS Earnslaw, to Walter Peak Station for dinner and a farm tour. Browse the waterfront cafes and have lunch at Michelin star chef Josh Emett's ‘Rata.’ Check out nearby historic Arrowtown and enhance your experience with a four wheel drive trip to Macetown.
Take a leisurely lakeside stroll or ride the gondola for breathtaking views. Drive through Lord Of The Rings country or for the really fanatic, jump aboard one of many dedicated LOTR tours. If you do really want the adrenaline rush Queenstown is known for, take your pick from the Shotover Jet, Bungy, Canyon Swing, Zipline, Luge or Heli-ski.
Finally, if you're lucky enough to visit in winter (July-September) there are four ski resorts close by. You can head up to Coronet Peak and the Remarkables close to Queenstown, or head to Wanaka for Cardrona and Treble Cone.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Dart River Wilderness Jet

Journey deep into the heart of the world-renowned Mt Aspiring National Park, where myth, heritage and fantasy come to life. As one of Queenstown’s most exhilarating activities, the Wilderness Jet adventures on a spectacular journey deep into the heart of the world-renowned Mount Aspiring National Park.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Outdoor Onsen Evening Session with Onsen Hot Pools

Enjoy the most memorable experience in Queenstown and surround yourself with a sky of stars and 14 Japanese lanterns as you soak up the warm waters of the Onsen Hot Pools. Nestled high on a cliffside overlooking the magnificent Shotover River canyon, providing views over the breathtaking alpine scenery and the perfect vantage point to watch the Shotover Jet boats on the river below. The idyllic cedar-lined hot tubs have long been a highlight for Queenstown visitors and locals alike. A unique kiwi twist on a Japanese tradition, these exclusive use pools are filled with pure water from the surrounding mountains which is heated to approx. 38.3 degrees. Ideal for individuals or groups of up to 4 people, all guests receive towels plus a complimentary drink and snack to enjoy during your rejuvenating soak.

Your accommodation: Azur Lodge

It's hard to imagine a more perfect view than the one from Azur Lodge, this luxury accommodation offers amazing vistas of Lake Wakatipu & the surrounding mountains. As well as the luxury guest villas, there is a main lodge for guest use, breakfast dining room & stunning guest lounge.
Meals included: Breakfast

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South Island Explorer - Day 10
Queenstown to Franz Josef Glacier via Wanaka

From Queenstown you'll cross the Crown Range, the highest sealed road in New Zealand to arrive in the Alpine town of Wanaka, gateway to Mt Aspiring National Park. Skirting the shores of both Lake Wanaka and Hawea, you will enter the small town of Makarora. Stop at Blue Pools for a 1-hour return walk through the native beech forest to a glacier-fed swimming hole. Continue on through the remote seaside settlement of Haast before heading up the wild West Coast highway you pass through ancient temperate rainforests while getting sneak peeks of the wild coast beaches occasionally. Paringa Salmon Farm is worth a stop to stretch your legs, feed the fish, and stop for lunch and refreshments. Keep heading North and be sure to enjoy the view of the ever-changing towering snowcapped Southern Alps Mountain Range. Fox Glacier welcomes you first, then comes your destination for the night Franz Josef township.

Your accommodation: Te Waonui Forest Retreat

Nestled amongst native West Coast rainforest at Franz Josef is a very special five-star retreat. Designed with utmost care of its precious environment, guests at Te Waonui Forest Retreat will find themselves encircled by rainforest and accommodated in natural and sustainable luxury.
Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 350 kms / 217 miles : 4.6 hours

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South Island Explorer - Day 11
Explore Franz Josef

Franz Josef is a small but lively town in the heart of the West Coast, known for its 12 km long glacier. Surrounded by lush rainforest-clad mountains the township has a vibrant and bustling atmosphere. To see the ice from a viewpoint you can walk along the valley floor to the viewpoint below the terminal face. However, to go on the glacier itself you must take a licensed helicopter tour.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Franz Josef Glacier Helihike with The Helicopter Line

Take a scenic flight over all three Franz Josef glacier icefalls. Landing high on the glacier take a two hour guided trip through some of the most beautiful terrain in the country. Your guide will choose the route as you go through a wonderland of blue ice and frozen pinnacles. You'll have endless views of the surrounding mountains and rainforest as well as plenty of opportunities to take photographs. Sure to be one of the most memorable experiences you have while you are in New Zealand. Should weather not be suitable to take this flight you are able to transfer your booking onto a similar tour on any of the Helicopter Line operations in Queenstown or Mt Cook.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - Okarito Lagoon Guided Kayak Trip

Kayaking is by far the best way to enjoy the flora, fauna and scenic grandeur of New Zealand's largest unmodified coastal wetland. Previous experience is not necessary. Okarito Lagoon covers more than 3240 hectares of shallow open water and is well known for its outstanding bird life, including white heron and royal spoonbill. Exploring the open water and river channels that lead you deep into the heart of the rainforest is like stepping back in time to pre-European conditions and on a clear day you enjoy fantastic views of Mt. Cook and the Southern Alps. Your guide will take you to their favourite spots where you'll discover the flora, fauna and history of the lagoon.

Your accommodation: Te Waonui Forest Retreat

Nestled amongst native West Coast rainforest at Franz Josef is a very special five-star retreat. Designed with utmost care of its precious environment, guests at Te Waonui Forest Retreat will find themselves encircled by rainforest and accommodated in natural and sustainable luxury.
Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

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South Island Explorer - Day 12
Franz Josef to Greymouth Train Station

Today head north along the mighty West Coast highway you pass through ancient temperate rainforests while getting sneak peeks of the wild coast beach occasionally. Whataroa is the next town where you can see one of the world's rarest birds, the New Zealand white heron or Kotuku nest at the Waitangi Roto Nature Reserve, and guided tours from October to March will take you there. 
Ross is the site of an old gold mining town and some of the old buildings and workings remain. In fact, Ross is still home to one of the few working gold mines left in New Zealand and the local information center offers you the chance to pan for gold.
Hokitika is a great place to explore craft and gift stores and head to the coast and take in the endless sea views. The Jade or Greenstone on offer in Hokitika is probably some of the best you will see in the country. The Hokitika Gorge is located 45 minutes inland and offers turquoise waters flowing through a narrow gorge. A great short walk will deliver you to this piece of paradise.
Continue on to Greymouth, the largest town on the West Coast and the starting point for the next leg of your journey the TranzAlpine Scenic Train. Drop your rental car at the Greymouth Train Station depot located at the train station building before boarding your train to Christchurch.

TranzAlpine Scenic Train: Greymouth to Christchurch

Crossing the south from Greymouth to Christchurch, the Tranz Alpine is considered one of the worlds greatest train journeys. You'll travel from east to the west of the south island through Arthur's Pass National Park.
From the comfort of your carriage see lush beech forest, deep river valleys and the spectacular peaks of the Southern Alps. Descend to the windswept Canterbury Plains before arriving in the city of Christchurch.

Private Transfer Christchurch Train Station to your accommodation

On arrival at the Christchurch train station, you will be met by a private driver and transferred to your accommodation.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY - TranzAlpine Scenic Plus Addon - KiwiRail

Feel like luxurious service, exclusive meals, inclusive drinks and priority check in and boarding? The Scenic Plus add-on option is for you. Enjoy personal service with panoramic windows, spacious carriages and comfortable seating. The exclusive open-air viewing carriage is available if you feel like capturing the ultimate photo or simply wish to experience the great outdoors whilst travelling through the Southern Alps. Your food is prepared exclusively in a kitchen carriage, with paired drinks and a paddock to plate regionally inspired food menu all your senses will be fully engaged on this journey.

Your accommodation: Hotel Montreal

A true original, Hotel Montreal is a unique, luxury escape in the heart of Christchurch city. Hotel Montreal is often recognised for the five-star comfort and convenience it affords those passing through the Garden City.
Meals included: Breakfast

Driving distance and time (approximate) for this leg: 170 kms / 106 miles : 2.1 hours

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South Island Explorer - Day 13
Private transfer accommodation to Christchurch Airport

A private transfer will collect you from your accommodation and transfer you to Christchurch Airport in time for your departing flight.

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The package cost above excludes rental vehicle hire as you are requesting a price for a vehicle outside of our designated season. Please reach out direct for rental vehicle rates.

NOTE: Quotes are subject to the availability of specific accommodations and other inclusions. Our NZ touring experts will contact you if any changes are needed. Costs quoted in currencies other than New Zealand dollars (NZ$) are based on today's exchange rate and are subject to change. Terms and Conditions apply.
If you have chosen to hire a Budget rental car, you may incur a one-way fee if a portion of your hire is under 7 days. Your sales consultant can confirm this on booking.

Remember: we can create this itinerary with any accommodation style or customise it to suit your interests and timeframe.

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